The Bills' grossly unethical stadium deal will burden the people it purports to unite

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·Yahoo Sports Columnist
·5 min read
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In the state of New York, if you want to receive public assistance — you know, money from state or local authorities to help keep a roof over heads or food in refrigerators — there are conditions that recipients must meet.

And not just you, but any adult who lives with you. Can't have poor people getting a free ride, you see, no matter how the system is set up to make sure the poor stay poor.

When wealthy people want public assistance, well, that's a different story.

On Monday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, and Terry and Kim Pegula, the multi-billionaire owners of the Buffalo Bills, trumpeted a new stadium deal for the team that will see the state give the couple $600 million in taxpayer funds. As if that weren't enough, Erie County will kick in $250 million.

The $850 million is the largest amount of public monies ever given to finance a stadium for a privately owned team.

And yet, in all of the coverage of the agreement, there hasn't been a word about the conditions the Pegulas, and by extension, the Bills, will have to meet to get the public assistance funds.

Weird, right?

Shameful is more like it.

Terry and Kim Pegula are worth billions. Why do they need to stick Buffalo taxpayers with a record bill for their new stadium? (Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)
Terry and Kim Pegula are worth billions. Why do they need to stick Buffalo taxpayers with a record bill for their new stadium? (Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)

Terry and Kim Pegula are reportedly worth $5.8 billion, give or take. In a hyper-exclusive club of wealthy team owners, they are among the top 10 wealthiest. They own two professional sports teams among their vast portfolio, the Bills and the NHL's Buffalo Sabres. They have more than enough to have financed a new stadium all on their own, but why pay for things yourself when you can sucker others into doing it for you?

Especially when Hochul can just propose to slash $800 million from New York's Office of Child and Family Services. Why make sure the most vulnerable citizens of the state are taken care of when there's a massive facility to build that will get used only 20 or so times a year? A building in which the tenants keep essentially all of the profits and reap all of the benefits when the value of the team increases because of the new facility?

Keep in mind the value of the stadium itself, which the state will own, depreciates with every passing year. And very likely at the end of the 30-year agreement that's supposedly "ironclad," the Pegulas or whoever else own the Bills then will once again threaten to move the team and fleece taxpayers.

And the $850 million from the state and county is just for building the new stadium. The state will also pay almost $7 million a year for 15 years in maintenance costs and contribute $6 million a year for the full 30 years to a capital improvement fund.

Yet the $6 million a year Highmark Health pays for the Bills' current stadium to carry its name — that all goes to the Pegulas.

The least the state can do, as it does with all people who ask for public assistance, is tie conditions to it.

For example: The population of Erie County is 25 percent non-white, including 14 percent Black, and New York is 45 percent non-white and 17.6 percent Black. Yet of the top 18 executives listed currently on the Bills' website, only two are ethnic minorities.

There will likely be requirements during construction for how many contractor companies must be minority- or women-owned, but the stadium construction is separate from the organization itself, and at some point the construction ends. And those in-stadium jobs on game days are not paths to riches, they're minimum wage temp jobs.

If you want The People's money, shouldn't your most senior leadership positions reflect The People?

Kim Pegula gets to tout that she's part of the diversity and inclusion groups for the NFL and NHL, whatever those are supposed to be accomplishing, but the Bills' top decision-makers are not diverse in the least, and exclusion seems more the goal than inclusion.

If you want The People's money, shouldn't you be nearer to The People?

The new facility will be built in Orchard Park, where the current stadium is, a town of fewer than 4,000 residents over 10 miles outside of Buffalo's city center. Like so many old mill cities, Buffalo would likely benefit from having the stadium built within city limits.

A new stadium will mean personal seat licenses, one of the greatest scams in modern history. You have to pay for the right to pay rent for seats. In this case, in a stadium built largely with your tax dollars. Assuming you can even afford a PSL and season tickets, which is more exclusion.

If you want The People's money, shouldn't all of The People get to see what their money helped pay for?

And what of the people who don't care about the Bills? What do they get out of this?

And how are we in 2022 still seeing these disgusting displays of state and local lawmakers allowing billionaire private business owners to fleece them out of taxpayer funds for facilities the vast majority of taxpayers won't have or don't want access to?

In what can be seen as one more concession to the Pegulas, Hochul waited to announce the deal until this week, days before the state's annual budget deadline on April 1 — meaning there isn't much time for state legislators to demand changes that benefit the taxpayers who will be funding the stadium.

Public assistance always comes with conditions. It does for the alleged "little people" who are desperate to have four walls and a roof to sleep under at night.

The wealthy, in this case the Pegulas, should be no different.